New method of gene therapy is developed

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FLANDERS, Belgium (UPI) — Flemish scientists say they have developed an improved and safer technique to deliver genes into the body’s cells during genetic therapy.

Gene therapy is the introduction of genetic material into a patient’s cells resulting in a cure or a therapeutic effect, said researchers at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology in Belgium. The success of gene therapy ultimately depends on the gene delivery vehicles, or vectors, and most vectors have been derived from viruses that can be tailor-made to deliver therapeutic genes. The drawback is some of the viral vectors can induce side effects, including cancer and inflammation.

Now Marinee Chuah, Thierry VandenDriessche, Eyayu Belay and colleagues at the Catholic University of Leuven say they’ve developed a non-viral approach that overcomes some limitations associated with viral vectors.

The technique is based on non-viral genetic elements called transposons — mobile DNA elements — that the scientists constructed to carry therapeutic genes into the target cell DNA, eliminating the need for viral vectors.
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“We show for the first time that it is now possible to efficiently deliver genes into stem cells, particularly those of the immune system, using non-viral gene delivery,” Chuah said.

The researchers, in collaboration with Zsuzsanna Iszvak and Zoltan Ivics and colleagues at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin are now testing the technology to treat specific diseases, including cancer and genetic disorders.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 11th May 2009

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